Health officials in the Biden administration are considering Covid-19 booster vaccine shots for certain vulnerable populations amid evidence the mRNA vaccines lose some of their effectiveness after six months.
Senior officials told the New York Times that people over the age of 65 or those who are immunocompromised may require a third “booster” shot of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, representing a change in their stance from mere weeks ago when the administration said boosters would not be needed.
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The administration has purchased 200 million additional doses of the vaccine in case boosters are needed as well as in anticipation that children ages 5-11 may be eligible to receive the vaccine as soon as this fall or winter. Data on the vaccine’s safety in ages 2-5 is expected shortly thereafter. Vaccines have proven to be incredibly effective against Covid-19, as the vast majority of hospitalizations with the virus are individuals who were not fully vaccinated.
“The federal government is exercising an option in its contract with Pfizer to purchase 200 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to be delivered between fall 2021 and spring 2022 to prepare for future vaccination needs, including vaccines for children under 12 and possible booster shots if studies show they are necessary,” an official told CNN, adding that Pfizer will also “provide the US with 65 million pediatric doses should its vaccine be approved for kids under 12, including doses available immediately upon authorization.”
While vaccines for children are likely to happen, officials are less certain boosters will be needed. “The goal of this vaccine is not to prevent mild or low, moderate infectious disease,” said Dr. Paul A. Offit, who sits on the Food and Drug Administration’s outside advisory committee of vaccine experts. “The goal is to prevent hospitalization to death. Right now this vaccine has held up to that.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci also tried to quell fears about vaccines losing their effectiveness during a congressional hearing this week. “We don’t want people to believe that when you’re talking about boosters, that means that the vaccines are not effective,” Fauci said. “They are highly effective.”
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